Catholic University Law Review


Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was passed in 1996 to promote and develop a nascent internet industry. The legislation affords protection from civil liability to internet providers that host content created by a third party. Section 230 protects internet companies that would otherwise be financially devastated by every defamation or libel lawsuit brought for each bad review or false statement posted. As the argument goes, all the familiar websites, such as Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter, would not have flourished without this vital legislation. Although Section 230 has played an important role in developing the internet today as we know it, the law has also produced negative consequences, one of which is the ability to buy and sell a child online for sex the same way one orders a new item on Amazon Prime. Survivors of these atrocious crimes have been unable to hold liable the websites responsible for their exploitation because of the broad immunity granted by Section 230. This past year Congress has taken the necessary step forward by passing the FOSTA-SESTA package, narrowing the language of Section 230 by allowing websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking to be held liable in civil court. However, at the time of drafting of this Comment, tech companies were also lobbying the Trump Administration to include Section 230 in the new NAFTA agreement. This Comment argues that the recent battle in Congress to pass new legislation, the illicit activities of Backpage, and the fact that the internet no longer needs the same protections it once required explains why such language should not be included in a new international trade agreement.